For the second year in a row, I’ll be spending Easter in Santa Rosa de Copán in Honduras. This year, I’m leading a large team of 19 individuals who will be spending a week working with Habitat Honduras to continue building homes that we started last year in the 31-house El Rosario project.
I’m excited this year that my daughter and wife will be joining me and also three board members from Habitat Wake: Steve McCulloch, Carolyn Baxter, and Delores Parker. We also have four of our Americorps members on the team: Dre Antono, Sarah Edwards, Nancy Hawk, and Matt Bailer. All told with this trip (our 3rd), we’ll have had 40 folks from Wake County take part in the life-changing work of Habitat Honduras. We have some other regular construction volunteers and some super committee volunteers joining us as well. We are aged 16 to 60+ and one of us even travels on a French passport.
This year, through our “tithe” to Habitat International, we’ll fund the construction of 30 homes in Honduras—one for each home we build in Wake. The cost of a Habitat Honduras home is $4,500, but I can assure you that the difference that home makes for a Honduran family is much greater than the difference experienced for Habitat Wake families. The poverty is just so extreme, that a 450 square foot adobe brick home with concrete floor and tin roof is seen as a gift from God—something that the Honduran families never expected to achieve.
Happy Easter to all of you! Please keep our team in your prayers for travelling mercies and for open eyes and hearts as we serve next week in Honduras. Look for blog updates from team members throughout the week.
…broken for you. We shared these words on a building site this past Sunday as members of Christ Episcopal Church and Highland United Methodist Church gathered for a “Framing Frenzy” event. For the first time in my 25 years at Habitat, I was part of a Holy Communion celebration on a building site. And how appropriate! Starting Saturday morning and finishing mid-day Monday, members of these churches gathered in partnership with Ty and her family to build a home that is the answer to Ty’s prayers. By noon Monday, the home was totally complete on the exterior! Work will continue on the interior over the next couple months when Ty will be able to realize her dream of owning a home of her own.
The Body of Christ came together in East Raleigh and left some tangible evidence of God’s love behind. Practical and tangible evidence. Amen.
We are in the Christian season of Lent. The 40 days prior to Easter. We think of Lent as a season where we give up something important to us in order to place our focus more intently on God. In our Christian tradition, Jesus gave up his life to pardon all of our sins. I have to ask myself what can I sacrifice in my life that others might be able to experience God’s love in their life?
At Habitat, we see this sacrifice all the time, all year around. People give up their free time to volunteer, people give up their resources to help fund our important work. And through it all they are able to proclaim that through all of their “loss”, they gain more than they give.
In worship this past Sunday, we sang a song very familiar to my Baptist upbringing, The Wonderful Cross. These lyrics have stayed with me and provided for a daily meditation since:
“Love so amazing, so divine. Demands my soul, my life, my all.” Indeed.
At a recent house dedication in Augusta Crossings, Pastor J. Vincent Terry of SE Raleigh’s Mount Peace Baptist Church shared with us a quote that really spoke volumes to me:
“We all drink from wells that we did not dig and we eat fruit from vines we did not plant.”
At that dedication we had two families who generously shared their abundance with us and were the sponsors of the homes being dedicated. And we had two very blessed families that were excited to become owners of a home for the very first time. Pastor Terry’s words are unifying, aren’t they? No matter our financial resources, we are all blessed by and rely on the work of others for our daily sustenance. This is very obvious in Habitat, but it’s all around us everyday.
We love our home sponsors! They come to know first-hand that Habitat is not just about building a house, but building relationships. Check out this great article about the home recently sponsored by the NC State University Park Scholars in partnership with the Siu/Roo family in Augusta Crossings.
I attended Habitat for Humanity’s annual legislative advocacy conference in Washington, D.C. earlier this week. Habitat has long held that our building houses alone will not get us anywhere close to eliminating substandard housing from the world, but that our building of homes plus a strong advocacy voice will be what it takes.
In Proverbs 31:8-9 we hear our call to advocacy:
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Habitat has a strong brand and we have access to speak to those in power on behalf of those we serve and are yet to serve who have a need for better housing.
There is a definite budget-balancing rhetoric in Washington these days as there should be. Even so, we took our message to Capitol Hill that the small amount of federal funding that Habitat receives is vitally important to help us to continue to reach more families in our communities with a housing need. I was able to meet with staff from the offices of Sen. Kay Hagan and of Reps. Ellmer and Holding. All are familiar with Habitat’s work and we pray that effective federal programs such as HUD’s Self Help Homeownership Program (SHOP) that funds site acquisition and infrastructure development costs and the Corporation for National Service’s AmeriCorps and VISTA programs will be kept intact as Members of Congress seek ways to reduce federal spending. Click here to learn more about Habitat’s U.S. Domestic Policy priorities.
By speaking up for families in need who aren’t able to speak for themselves, we build louder and call attention to the great need for adequate housing across our country and world.
I was in a workshop on Saturday at Providence Baptist Church, led by Dr. Brian Fikkert, one of the co-authors of When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. I am excited by the conversation that this book is framing among local churches seeking to be engaged locally and globally in alleviating poverty as a calling from God.
Brian suggested that in order to alleviate poverty that you need three things: 1. God 2. God and 3. God. And he shared that it should be clear to Christians that the alleviation of poverty here and now is something we should be all about. He quoted this scripture from 1 John:
“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:17-18
Brian shared that the Raleigh-Durham area ranks high on a national survey of “bible-mindedness”–#22 to be exact– and he suggested that “things should look different for the poor where the people of God are.”
So, churches of Raleigh and Wake County—come join us! There are people in our community in need of housing and Habitat for Humanity is a proven ministry that makes a difference in people’s lives in an empowering and not dependency-producing way. Let’s get moving and show our community that the Church in action is a powerful force showing God’s love throughout the community!
I was blessed to be able to attend Monday’s inauguration of President Barack Obama to his second term as President of the United States. I grew up in Washington, DC, but had never attended an inauguration in person before. In his short speech, President Obama highlighted these words from our Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Familiar words to be sure. But this is what caught my attention. The President suggested that while these basic rights are self-evident, they are not self-executing. Here’s what he said,
“Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on earth.”
In my early years with Habitat for Humanity, I had a recurring nightmare that one day, no one showed up to volunteer. The President’s words helped me think of the voluntary decision people make every day to extend a hand to help those in need of a home. We believe that having a decent place to live is a large part of a free and happy life, but we know that if we don’t act, that this basic right does not just magically appear for everyone. It takes work—hard work—on the behalf of many and, at Habitat, we are blessed to witness that love that flows forth daily from our community.
So I thank you all for the voluntary decisions you make, through Habitat, that literally changes the lives of families in need in our community and is a part of the “never ending journey” that the President speaks of in delivering on those bold truths so eloquently stated in the Declaration of Independence.
On Monday, about a dozen of our staff members attended the funeral of a regular office volunteer of ours, Steve Calhoun. A few years back, Steve was laid off from his job of many years. He decided that rather than sit around and do nothing, he’d spend some time volunteering with us. He was soon after diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and put up a brave fight—never giving up—until he passed away last Friday.
“Superfantastic” was a word that Steve used often. He was a very optimistic guy and this term fit him well and his reaction to things. Despite a severe lack of energy, Steve and his wife, Cindy, came by to see us several days before Christmas when he knew his time was short. They brought us some holiday goodies to thank us for what we do.
Steve was a “superfantastic” volunteer—one who understands best what we do here at Habitat is build relationships by building homes. Steve touched many people in his time as a volunteer with us . When I spoke with Cindy briefly at the service this morning she said that, “Habitat was his (Steve’s) calling. He just didn’t know it,” in the context of wishing he had discovered us sooner.
RIP, Steve Calhoun. We are blessed to have been part of your journey.